Photo of students and instructor on rowing machinesIt's after school at Lake Ridge Middle School. Jennifer Tallman sits on an ergometer in the auxiliary gym in front of students, also on ergometers, instructing them to "Lean forward to one. Lean back to eleven. Arms in. Arms out." The exercise machines whine as students pull the handles and push back in the sliding seats. These are the sounds typically heard during the crew club meeting. They may not be in boats in the water, but they are learning proper rowing techniques. Tallman, who is also a language arts teacher at Lake Ridge Middle, was inspired to start the club after seeing how much her own children enjoyed the sport and her love for the sport.

In 2012, Tallman recruited a few high school coaches to teach the Lake Ridge Middle students about crew. As the club membership increased, high school crew team members were recruited to help, but in 2016, Tallman decided to take up the sport. She became a certified ergometer instructor and the coach of the crew club.

Using the ergometer, or the "erg," as it's commonly referred to, Tallman teaches the three parts of the stroke and how to best use the leg, core, and arm muscles for better results.

First-year club member Gabe Anderson, a seventh grader, explains, "It's cool because it's really good exercise. Before joining, I thought that it was mainly using your arms, but you use your legs and core muscles more than your arms." His teammate, Izzy Avalos-Ceja, seventh grade, added, "It's really simple, but complicated at the same time, because you can easily mess up. Once you get used to the rhythm though, it's go, go, go."

Tallman used the erg's calorie tracker in an educational activity. "Each student selected a piece of candy out of a bin, then we calculated the total number of calories for all of the candy. We worked together to burn the calories just to show the effort that goes into burning off calories," she explained.

During club meetings, the students divide into teams to compete. As each student completes a timed sprint, they log their meters. The experience teaches them how proper technique is essential to increasing how many meters they can row.

"This is just a taste of crew. We only meet once a week in the fall, but I truly believe that in our schools, we need to have clubs where students feel like they belong, they can connect with other students and they feel like they're a part of something bigger," Tallman explained.